UNDER-fire Brendan Ogle's position as head of the ESB group of unions was under threat last night.
A union that saved him from being suspended last week over a controversial speech withdrew its support for him at the weekend.
Sources revealed the national executive committee of the ESB Officers Association (ESBOA) rejected its leaders' decision to back Mr Ogle.
Mr Ogle angered union members by referring to them in an address to an Eirigi meeting as "spoilt" workers, who enjoyed "gravy" in the form of perks from the Government.
Sources said members of the ESBOA executive condemned their leaders' decision at a meeting in Dublin on Saturday.
Without the union's support, he would only have had the backing of his own union Unite to continue in his role as secretary of the group of unions.
"This is a setback that could cause a row among the group of unions," said a source.
"ESBOA is a very conservative union and this shows people are extremely angry."
Mr Ogle said yesterday he had apologised to staff for using the word "spoilt" but claimed it was the way his comments were reported that "hurt" staff.
He claimed his "gravy" comments related to private sector workers as well as public sector.
However, the specific item he referred to as "gravy" in his speech was an ESB after-hours work scheme.
The union leader would not say whether he supported strike action at the ESB if any part of it was sold, but mentioned that 200 shop stewards had voted in favour of a ballot for industrial action if this took place.
At an emergency meeting of the group of unions last week, ESBOA and UNITE leaders successfully voted to have a proposal for his suspension on full pay dropped from a motion.
The TEEU and SIPTU voted against this amendment but were defeated because they had a lower quota of votes.
Following this, all the unions backed a watered-down motion by 15 to one that an investigation be carried out while Mr Ogle continues in his role. The decision means he will continue to represent staff as crucial talks begin on payroll cuts of €140m.
Meanwhile, details of Mr Ogle's expenses have been revealed.
Sources said that as an ESB employee he was entitled to claim an overnight allowance of €158 between October and April and €172 during the rest of the year when away on business.
He is also entitled to a mileage rate of €1.30 per mile when on tours of the regions and other union business.
The Irish Independent has previously revealed details of pay scales and a variety of allowances available to ESB staff.
The ESB refused to give details of the entitlements, which include a wide range of "salary allowances", "production support" and "oil-tanker attendance" allowances.
There are also allowances for personal assistants, including an annual payment of €5,532 for PAs to executive directors.
Average pay was €85,000 last year, excluding pension contributions.
It was €75,500 the previous year and €94,300 when pension contributions are included, according to economist Colm McCarthy's report on state assets.